Mover & Shaker of the Month

Joe Welch

Joe Welch  
National History Teacher of the Year  

        I learned from my own teachers that the best teaching environments are ones in which students enjoy learning. I want students to have a smile on their face, to be challenged to insert themselves into the stories that they are learning about and to experience the emotion that exists in American History.” 

                 -Joe Welch 

           The North Hills School District is pleased to announce that one of their educators, Joe Welch, was selected as the 2018 National History Teacher of the Year. Welch, an eighth-grade middle school social studies teacher, was honored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. 

           He was presented with his award on Oct. 10 at a special ceremony at the Yale Club in New York City.  Welch was nominated by his two coworkers Vicki Truchan and Larry Dorenkamp.  

         “At the time that I received a phone call from Gilder Lehrman, my hands started to shake. When I found out that I could bring my wife and children along with two North Hills families with me to New York, I could not believe it. Gilder Lehrman made this entire experience unbelievable. We were able to spend over two hours at the Gilder Lehrman Collection, holding documents like the hand-colored engraving of Paul Revere’s “The Boston Massacre” to Columbus’ 1493 letter back to Europe as well as some interesting artifacts like James Madison’s and John Brown’s hair,” Welch said. 

           Welch has been teaching in the North Hills School District for the past 12 years. What makes him so successful in the classroom, is that he believes in utilizing a few key components in his teaching – emotion, personal narratives and human connection.  

         “When we teach history with only lists of facts, with blank maps to be filled in, with endless outlines of names and events, we leave out what makes learning history so amazing: the stories of people to whom our students can actually relate.  Teaching students through lessons that elicit emotion thrusts them INTO history and makes them love it,” said Welch. 

          “Students should be encouraged to insert themselves into the historical narrative and own what they create. As stated in the musical Hamilton, ‘When you got skin in the game, you stay in the game.’ History classes should be arenas that provide students with opportunities to analyze information by way of retelling history from a personal perspective, to connect emotionally with historical characters to get skin in the game,” Welch added.           

            Looking ahead, Welch noted that he has some solid goals for his future, “I want to continue to grow as a teacher in my own classroom and as a leader regionally in advocating for innovative social studies education. This entire experience has displayed the importance of never turning down an opportunity for growth. You never know where a conversation will take you, how a conference presentation may connect you to an organization or additional resources for students.” 

By Paula Green